Natural Materials (300)

Scott Holmen's 14′ × 14′ Post-and-Beam Cabin

…I have worked as a forester since the mid-1970s and have lived in places that had specialized structures with limited functions, a cookhouse for cooking and eating, a bathhouse for showers and clothes washing, and a smaller structure (cabin or tent frame) to sleep in. Not much of a stretch to think I could do that again. I always wanted a large outside space which would stay dry. So I ended up with a 16´ × 16´ covered deck in front of the cabin. This had an added advantage because it gave me a large, dry, flat building area. Since it does rain a bit around here, that was a huge plus.

The cabin’s concept was to build modular log walls, and then assemble them in a post-and-beam framework. The log walls use ¾˝ thick, 3˝ wide plywood splines to attach them to the posts. The modules are built on a jig, and are then either stored somewhere until it is time to build or are then rebuilt on the foundation.

I’m just a retro-grouch at heart. Old school, wood and steel, no electricity, and a bit of skill beats power tools any day. I like my electric hand planers for smoothing wall timbers, love my chainsaw for cutting the big stuff — but for a simple bevel on a board (or 70 boards), I like the sound of a quiet hand plane that is older than my grandkids, older than my kids, older than me, maybe older than my father, and just like the ones my grand­father used to use.
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Hybrid Natural Home in Colorado Highlands Built by Brett LeCompte

My home, which I built in 
2003–04, is a hybrid design. 
The north, east, and west wall are straw bale, while the south wall is adobe and glass. The upper story is framed with 2˝ × 8˝ rough-sawn local Ponderosa Pine, furred out to about 9½˝ to accommodate a heavy coat of cellulose insulation, which also fills the roof cavity. Downstairs, there are earthen plasters inside and outside, while upstairs is sheathed in local, rough-sawn pine board and batten.

Drywall walls upstairs are finished in earthen plasters, which ties the two levels together. A central woodstove heats the home, which is off the grid. I tried to use materials mostly from my county in southwest Colorado. Ceilings are tongue-and-groove aspen sawn in a mill six miles away. The frame is local Ponderosa pine, including a third of them milled from my property. I did my own bathroom and kitchen ­cabinetry. Downstairs floors are earthen (two thirds) and tile (one third). There are lots of porches for protection of my earthen walls during a Colorado winter. One unique feature is a 10-inch lizard (painted blue) that runs up the staircase on an interior adobe wall. I named her Noelle when I finished shaping her one Christmas afternoon. I share the house with my wife Shaine, kids Rosie and Fielder, and dog Ella…

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Barn in Oregon Framed with 1″ Lumber

I’ve been going through old photos lately. I shot photos of this beautiful barn in 2014. I posted it back then, but I think it’s worth looking at it again, in more detail. Here’s what I wrote:

There are buildings that have — for lack of a better word — a sweetness to them. Like this barn, like a small abandoned cottage in an English field I once found, slowly disintegrating back into the soil from which all its materials came. Inside, I could feel the lives that had been lived there. Or the buildings of master carpenter Lloyd House. It happens most frequently in barns, where practicality and experience create form with function. Architecture without architects.

The unique feature here is that the roof’s curve is achieved by building the rafters out of 1″ material. 1 × 12s laminated together (I believe 4 of them) to achieve the simplest of laminated trusses. The barn is 24′ wide, 32′ long, 26′ to the ridge. Thanks to Mackenzie Strawn for measuring it; he also wrote: “I have a carpentry manual from the 1930’s with a short section on the Gothic arch barns, they suggest making the roof radius ¾ of the width.”

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Ziggy and April's Timber Frame and Straw Bale Home in Missouri

…After ten days of the Straw Bale Workshop (and yet more punishing heat), we built the walls of our new home, installed all the windows and doors, and began the natural clay and lime plaster finishes on the walls.

Amazingly, we were able to live in the house by winter of that same year. Granted the house was not complete, but we had a dry, warm place to rest in before the next year’s work started. A year or so later the house was completed.

Building our straw bale house challenged us in many unexpected ways. Just as we had taken a bare piece of ground and utterly transformed it, the straw bale house itself changed us in ways we could never imagine…

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Lodge in Allegany Mountains in New York

Log home built by Bill Castle near Belmont in the Allegany Mountains, New York. Bill, a good friend, who unfortunately left this earth a few years back, was a phenomenal builder. He created a resort he called Pollywog Hollér and was one of the three featured builders in our book Homework.

The resort is still going strong. Here’s what it says on their website:

“Named for the serenade of frogs that fills the evening air, Pollywogg Holler is a great camp-style eco-resort in New York’s Southern Tier. The genius of nature and man are showcased in a setting of spectacular beauty, Adirondack-style craftsmanship, solar electricity, and gravity fed spring water. Explore available lodging and book your stay now.”

www.pollywoggholler.com

Post from www.lloydkahn.com

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Surfers Hotel in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Shelter Publications had a visit from Steve Pezman, the co-creator and recently-retired editor of Surfer’s Journal, and his long-time surfing buddy, photographer Leo Hetzel. Steve interviewed @lloyd.kahn and Leo shot photos for an article in the magazine. This was the cover of a scrapbook Lloyd made of a surfing trip to Costa Rica in 1990. It shows Kurt Van Dyke on the balcony of his hotel for surfers in Puerto Viejo, on the Caribbean coast southeast of Puerto Limón. When he saw Lloyd about to take a picture, Kurt said, “Classic, eh?”

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Houseboat Island Living



Mark has lived a very unique life, sailing and traveling around the world working as a professional mime and clown. Now, in his retirement he is living the island lifestyle on an incredible off-the-grid houseboat where he is able to enjoy life and spend his days looking out over the ocean.

Mark’s houseboat is a member of a houseboat community which is made up of 8 floating homes which are situated on an island off the coast of New Zealand. This community is made up of a variety of beautiful, small, off-grid, tiny houseboats, all with their unique and individual charms. The community has existed in this area since the 70’s.

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Margaret's Cabin Built by Jan Janzen

This little cabin was built almost entirely from a cedar tree that had been lying nearby. Framing, flooring, shakes. Maybe that’s what makes the building so harmonious. Jan had told me this and, as I was climbing around inside and out shooting photos, I had a vision of a tree, a solid chunk of wood, cut up rearranged, and expanded to make this cozy place…

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